Blog #2: Working with C. elegans

In order to perform research in a scientific field, you must have extraordinary patience and expect the unexpected. I had the pleasure of learning this lesson this semester navigating the trials and errors of my experiments. In order to begin the extent of my research, I must first prove that the nematode C. elegans will ingest the bacteria involved in my study. To do this, I performed several feeding assays. This entails placing equal amounts of E. coli, the nematode’s bacteria of choice, and the experimental bacteria on opposite sides of a NGM (nematode growth medium) plate. I then placed a sample of worms into the middle of the plate and monitored them for 4 hours, checking the movement of the worms every half hour. Two plates were made for each experiment for accuracy. Although tedious, I was able to observe to which side of the plate the worms traveled and if they preferred one bacterium over the other. It may sound extremely simple, but nevertheless errors were encountered. For example during my last experiment, the worms did not make any significant movements and therefore I was unable to detect any preference for either bacterium. This raised many questions, especially since I had followed the same procedure as previous experiments. I am currently looking into this event. I also found that maintenance of the worms before performing the experiment requires precise timing and ensuring you have enough worms to place on each plate. Dr. Marcello is extremely helpful in this aspect due to his extensive knowledge of C. elegans.

Half way through the semester, Dr. Kelly was able to order a mutated strain of the experimental bacteria that contains a plasmid causing it to fluoresce. This was a huge step in my research because it would allow me to visualize the bacteria in the worm gut and observe how it interacted with the intestinal epithelia. Unfortunately, an error occurred in growing the mutated bacteria and we were unable to use the cultures. I believe the organization from which we received the bacteria recommended the wrong antibiotic to include in the cultures, which was insufficient in keeping the bacteria alive. We are currently in contact with the organization to receive more bacteria as well as updated procedures. This was definitely a setback in my research, however it taught me the importance of maintenance of the organisms I’m working with as well as performing extra research to understand why I am performing such procedures.

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